"I love being a Catholic. I love the stories, the art, the ritual, the rich (if not always proud) history of the tradition into which I was born. Most of all, I love the Eucharist, the central mystery of my faith tradition."
I completely identify with this thinking. But underlying all this is the essential belief that we can retain the trappings of faith and reject the substance of the system while still being somehow within that system. If that were really true I would still be a Catholic. I like mass too. But Catholicism isn't just mass.
"The pope simply doesn’t have the authority to take my religion or my ministry away from me."
Um, yes he does. He's the Pope. In Catholicism, for good or for ill (Ill! Ill!) he's the guy who decides. If you don't accept that, you aren't Catholic.
Here’s the secret, I think: progressives are indeed alive and well not only in Chicago, but all over the world, despite the Vatican’s deep desire that we just shut up, submit, and/or go away. (Ratzinger has expressed the thought that it would be swell if the church got smaller and all the riff-raff like us would just leave already!) But we’re not going anywhere. We’re the Catholics of Nigeria, the Catholics of Latin America, the Catholics of the Philippines, the Catholics of China, the Catholics of Europe, the Catholics in the United States . . . we are literally everywhere.
This is the depressing part. This whole catalog of countries is simply a fantasy. Only in the U.S. and Western Europe is there any significant strain of liberal Catholicism. Certainly there are liberal Catholics in Nigeria, but they are a tiny minority. Ditto the Philippines, China, and Latin America.
American Catholics want desperately to believe that the transformation of the American Catholic church into one of the more pluralistic, progressive religions in the world will one day spread to the rest of the church. I can't say it will never happen, but I see no evidence that it is happening.